While the federal government is all set to inaugurate the first unit of 36 megawatt of the Rs30 billion worth Golen Gol Hydropower Project at the end of this year, local people fear they will not get electricity from the powerhouse to overcome the prolonged power crisis on a priority.
Officials in the federal government say by the time the first unit is inaugurated, the second unit of another 36 megawatt would also be ready.
A senior technical official working with the project told ChitralToday that the transmission lines of the damaged Reshun powerhouse could be utilized to provide electricity from Golen Gol to consumers in upper as well as lower Chitral.
During a visit to Chitral last year, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had announced dedication of the first unit (36MW) of Golen Gol Hydropower Project to the marble city and the people of Chitral and adjoining areas who complained excessive loadshedding, low voltage and fewer electricity connections.
He had directed WAPDA to accelerate the project construction and ordered the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) to augment its distribution system to absorb the 36MW from the new unit to meet requirements of the locals.
While WAPDA mobilized additional resources to deliver on the government directive, PESCO struggled on its part to lay lines for supplying additional electricity from Golen Gol to Chitral and adjoining areas at around 22-kilometre distance. Even if WAPDA is able to operationalize first unit, “the laxity on part of PESCO can cost dearly to the people in Chitral,” the official said.
“The only action taken by PESCO so far is the submission of a PC-I amounting to Rs5 billion to the federal government but it has not been able to actively pursue its approval by the Planning Commission.
The 108 MW Golen Gol power project was originally planned to start in 1996 but actually commenced construction in 2002 with a completion deadline of 2011. Its approved cost was estimated at Rs7bn in 2002 but was revised to Rs29.1bn in September 2016. As of last month, the project is reported to have achieved 81pc physical progress. A consortium of international lenders was also funding the project.
Meanwhile, Tehreek Huqooq-e-Awam upper Chitral leader Shuja Uddin told ChitralToday that the area had been facing a power crisis after the destruction of the Reshun powerhouse in the 2015 floods. Since then, the whole upper Chitral is without electricity as the KP government failed to reconstruct the powerhouse.
Similarly, the people in lower Chitral, especially the town and nearby areas, are facing an acute shortage of electricity. Under these circumstances, he added, it is the responsibility of the government to first provide the indigenous electricity coming out of the Golen Gol powerhouse to the local people.
He said work on a number of development projects, including the Lawi powerhouse, was underway where electricity was also needed. He also said electricity from Golen powerhouse can be distributed through the transmission lines of Reshun powerhouse whose grid station was located at Juti Lasht.
The Tehreek leader said former PM Nawaz Sharif had ordered the power utility and distribution companies to provide the first 36 MW of Golen Gol to the people of Chitral.
If the direction is not implemented by the government, the people of Chitral would launch a protest move and would not allow the diversion of electricity out of Chitral, he added.